In 1952, when General Eisenhower swept into the White House, becoming the first Republican President since Herbert Hoover, it caused for a considerable amount of speculation and soul-searching on both political parties. True, Dwight Eisenhower was a celebrated General during World War 2, there was talk as far back as 1948 of a potential Presidential run – but it wasn’t entirely clear as a Democrat or a Republican, because Eisenhower really expressed no political leanings. He was a military man – the Army was his life. But the idea of a Warrior Statesman intrigued many – and besides, one of his campaign promises was to “go to Korea” in an effort to end the war – which would happen a year after this broadcast.
But there was yet another issue brewing, and this one was almost directly correlated to our domestic situation during the war; Women were joining the workforce in unprecedented numbers, obviously making up for the lack of men who were being drafted and pressed into military service. And they were employed in areas that literally no women had worked before, performing tasks usually associated with men (heavy industrial manufacturing). The war, among many things, upset the implied social norms by putting women in non-traditional roles of the time. And when the war was over, the assumption that many had; that women would go back to role of housewife and stay-at-home-mom was quickly questioned.
You could, in many ways, trace the beginnings and the progression of the Women’s Movement in America in the 1960s and 70s to the Post-World War 2 environment of 1946.
So what did this have to do with electing a President? A lot – Women, starting at the 1946 mid-term elections, were turning out in unprecedented numbers to vote. By 1948 you had more Women running for office than ever before. By 1950 and 1952 Women made up 51% of the electorate – and the numbers were growing.
What’s interesting is that pollsters and pundits didn’t really start adding two and two until a year after the Eisenhower victory, when hindsight is razor-sharp. And then the question was – “who are these women voting for? Were they all Republicans or Democrats? – they cut a huge swath along party affiliations – but the bottom line; they were a strong and influential voice in our political system and were only going to get stronger with time – but how strong, and to do what with the power?
On this episode of the weekend discussion program American Forum – the panelists and the audience participating is made completely up of Women, and it is loaded with “ah-ha” moments, from a historic perspective. It’s interesting to listen to this broadcast in 2019 and compare it with the events around the 2018 mid-terms and the emergence of a very full playing field of Women Presidential candidates. Sure, the differences are stark but the events and the progression is completely logical.
To get an idea of what Women in Politics sounded like sixty-six years ago, have a listen to this and do a little reading.